Build more houses in villages, says Princess Royal
Express, By Jane Wharton
VILLAGES must build new homes in a bid to beat the housing crisis, according to the Princess Royal.
Instead of large-scale new towns being developed, Anne said that existing villages should take many of the 240,000 homes so desperately needed in the UK.
Today the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) welcomed the royal’s intervention saying it is important to have a "living countryside" with villages which grew "organically".
However her opinions are at odds with the government who is championing the creation of two new towns in Kent and Buckinghamshire.
The Princess Royal told the Rural Housing National Conference: "Is it really necessary to only think in terms of large-scale developments where you might add 10 or 15 thousand in a block where you require infrastructure to be installed? I’m not sure it is."
She added: "You will need a new school, you will need new shops, you will need to create a community centre, but for many of the small-scale developments you already have those.
"They may be underused, and they may be your church hall, but with a degree of investment could provide a centre for so many other activities."
Speaking in Cheltenham, Anne said that by building between six and twelve homes around a village, the local community could thrive.
She added that those new families would help keep local schools, shops and pubs viable.
And she added that research had shown that for every pound invested in new affordable rural homes, there was a "social return" of around £6.50.
"If you have a shop, pub, school etc you might be able to keep them, because people with families who live there would want those services to remain," she said, adding that rural communities "unconsciously look out for each other."
The Princess Royal was addressing around 100 house builders and local authority planners in her role as patron of the English Rural Housing Association.
Her intervention comes as 26 pubs close each week, many of which are the lifeblood of their communities. Rising house-prices, particularly in areas with many second homes, have meant young families cannot get on the property ladder in the place they grew up.
Her speech has been welcomed by the CPRE and chief executive Shaun Spiers said today: "We want a living countryside, not a countryside of commuter villages or retirement ghettos. The important thing is that villages should grow organically, with the consent of those who live there, and that priority is given to creating genuinely affordable homes for people with strong employment or family ties to the area.
"The way to do this is, wherever possible, is to have a community-led process which identifies suitable sites for inclusion in local and neighbourhood plans. With this in place, development is more likely to be well located and high quality, and therefore win local support."
But he also highlighted the need for redevelopment of urban areas: "In terms of the scale of development that most people accept we need, the best value for society, if not for the volume house builders, will come from brownfield development within towns and cities, together with some well-planned urban extensions."
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has championed the creation of new "garden cities" in London’s commuter belt, and Labour leader Ed Miliband has also highlighted the need for major housing developments.
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "This Government’s policy is to support locally-led development. We have put councils’ local plans at the heart of deciding where houses should and shouldn’t go and given communities more say on what’s best for them through community-led neighbourhood plans."